Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Behind the Books: Kids Love Facts

For the last few weeks, I’ve been discussing narrative nonfiction and the role storytelling techniques can play in engaging readers and bringing people, situations, and settings to life for young readers. But as popular and successful as narrative nonfiction is, it’s only one subset of children’s nonfiction.

We can’t forget about the more straightforward, expository books. Why? Because kids love them. The grosser the better. The goofy-er the better. The weirder and wackier the better, better, better.

Are readers really going to retain all those amazing, unusual, and surprising facts? For the most part, no. (Actually, you’ll be surprised what a child fascinated by a subject can remember.) But that’s okay. Remembering every detail, every stat isn’t really the goal of these books—at least not in my opinion.

First of all, we want to get kids reading. Studies show it doesn’t really matter what they read as long as they read. It’s a critical skill that can be directly linked to a child’s educational and financial success in life. For many kids, these are the books they want to read. They don’t much care about story lines. They care about increasing their knowledge of all the world has to offer. And that’s what these books provide in spades.

Second of all, even if kids don’t remember each and every fact, they will remember the overall point of these books. The world is an amazing, mystifying, fascinating place. It’s worth a closer look. It’s worth exploring. That’s an important message for kids—especially in a time when they are spending less and less time outdoors and less and less time unscheduled.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s the message underlying all my books—no matter how they are written. And it’s a message that I whole-heartedly believe is important enough to dedicate my life to.

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